Review: Oddball

Starring: Francesca Forristal
Written by: Francesca Forristal
Director: Micha Mirto
Upstairs at The Gatehouse, London until 24th Aug 2019

CW: Eating Disorders

“All Oddball has to do is behave like a normal person on a date. Easy. It’s in a restaurant though. Restaurants have food. And other people. Food and people. She might pull her skin off with pliers. That’s normal… right?”

Upon entering the theatre at The Gatehouse to see Oddball, I was met with the jubilant, energetic star of this one-woman show dressed in shorts and a tank top, a plaster on her leg and her hair in two long pigtails. She was already guiding her audience enthusiastically towards their seats, smiling and delivering quick, sunny quips to them. It was a good indication of what was to come – for this show, the fourth wall has been removed, deconstructed and tossed in a metaphorical scrapheap.

From before the first word of the script is uttered, Francesca Forristal invites us in to tell her story and she subsequently does this through a myriad of characters and musical numbers. A particular stand out is her impression of the man with a hero-complex that fetishizes her problems, offering to be the one to ‘fix’ her ‘broken’ parts. We watch her dip in and out of an assortment of entertaining numbers from Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Les Mis and Chicago – the Mentally Unwell Block Tango is a particularly poli-incorrect nugget.

Despite a lack of props and stage settings, Forristal bounces, jumps and moves around the stage as if it were a gymnasium. Though the script can tend to lag at times, Forristal’s kooky and charming performance keeps us engaged and zoned in on her from start to finish. With minimal lighting and a gargantuan soundscape, the comedic, personable script leads up to a sucker punch of a final fifteen minutes that is all the starker in contrast.

Although I feel Forristal’s style of writing would have brilliantly served a further exploration of queerness, I would note that what impressed me most was that Forristal knows her audience – her playful script is ready-made for the millennial generation. Chock-full of pop culture references and dating scenarios we’ve all suffered through; it relishes in self-deprecation and exaggerated characterizations. She allows us to better understand mental illness and have a giggle at the same time, in a totally frank and no-holds-barred autobiography.

This show is a part of an ongoing public conversation, and you have to admit, it’s a good way to keep the (odd)ball rolling.

Book now

Review © Killian Glynn 2019

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Review: Sex Education

Ed Fringe, Summerhall, 19:10 until 25th Aug

Sex Education is, as the name would suggest, an educational experience that focuses on expressions of sexuality and the vulnerability that comes with subverting the traditional expectations of relationships. Beginning in a charity-shop-bought wedding dress at the back of the audience, Harry Clayton-Wright successfully combines video (a varied array of gay porn), audio (interviews with his mother and friends) while making some (very delicious) cucumber sandwiches on stage.

Harry is a captivating performer and successfully balances the entire performance: the porn doesn’t feel gratuitous, the interviews feel genuine and warm and are testament to Harry’s personality, the lip-syncing is absolutely on-point. To create a piece of theatre that’s autobiographical and genuine is a difficult balance, and Harry’s balances in a way that feels as though you’re witnessing a kind and loving soul.

It’s the interview with Harry’s mother that proves for the most poignant throughline of this piece, exploring a clear juxtaposition between his life and his mother’s – and similarly, his life and his father’s. His mother grew up Christian, married to support a homeless charity and is the antithesis of his father who is noticeably chaotic, and once built a pyramid in his garden. To an extent, the play felt as though it was exploring how parents can form us and the differences in sex education between the Christianity of Harry’s mother and the gay-porn-stash sharing of Harry’s father. The references to religion in the play are subtle, like a subtle nod to those who have grown up in similar situations, and it was enjoyable feeling that security in the story Harry was telling.

Ultimately, Sex Education looks at how we express our sexuality, what we are taught and not taught – and importantly it explicitly considers the lives that are put in danger due to a lack of proper LGBTQ+ sex education in the UK. It’s funny, it’s cheeky and it’s tender. It’s also vitally important that we consider the message it leaves us with considering the current climate for sex education.

© M. Holland 2019

Book Now to see Sex Education at The Edinburgh Fringe.

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 08.36.35.pngImage © Holly Revell

Q and A with Bibi June

Bibi June is a member of In To The Works, a Glasgow based spoken word theatre company, who are currently performing The 900 Club up at the Edinburgh Fringe. LGBTQ Arts’ Amie Taylor sent a few questions over to Bibi to find out more about this piece.

Amie: Tell us a little about you and an artist and how you came to do what you do…

Bibi: My background is in performance poetry: I started performing in dingy basement bars in Glasgow, at open mics and any event that would have me. It was a hobby at first, a fun creative thing to do with my time while I was studying. In my final year, I got a residency for artists of colour in Scotland with the Workers Theatre which allowed me to work on longer work, and it gave me the confidence to pursue poetry as a career. I started working with three other Scottish poets, and we’ve been collaborating since, eventually starting our own spoken word theatre company ‘In The Works’. I now work as a spoken word producer and artist, which is not something I ever expected to be able to do or say, so I feel incredibly lucky to get to do it. 

Amie: Tell us about your show, what is it about…

Bibi: ‘The 900 Club’ is about a young group of friends who went through a major loss together, but couldn’t actually go through it together. Five years later, they meet up on the 900 bus between Glasgow and Edinburgh to reprise their old camping trip in memory of their deceased friend, which is where the show begins. They laugh and fight, share memories and open up about long buried secrets. At its core, it’s a story about found family, and the things that tear us apart if we don’t take care of ourselves and each other. We’re poets, so it’s a theatre piece written as performance poetry. Kind of like Shakespeare, if there’d been busses back then!

Amie: What inspired it?

Bibi: After the first show we did together finished up, we had a meeting about what we’d do next. We all wrote down what we were interested in writing about. Because we write our shows collaboratively, it’s important we find something we all care about, and can bring some nuance to from our own experiences. Grief was the major overlapping theme, and because of who we are that quickly became a story about queer grief and friendship.

Amie: What do you hope people will take away from watching?

Bibi: It was really important to us to bring nuance to the conversation around grief and suicide. Mental illness can make people behave in incredibly cruel and mean ways- it’s a reason, but not an excuse. The complexity of our relationship with a person doesn’t just disappear when they die. We wanted to renegotiate how we are allowed to remember the dead- the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. If we are only going to remember people as saints, we might as well be remembering someone else entirely. We hope people come away from the show feeling okay to find their own path through grief.

Amie: Describe the show in 6 words…

Bibi: Breakfast club meets the 900 Megabus

Amie: What is your experience of the fringe so far?

Bibi: Because we’re local, the Fringe just kind of… happens, on our doorstep. I live in Glasgow, so whenever it becomes a bit overwhelming, I escape home to sleep in my own bed. We’re also only doing a 5 day run, to not tire ourselves out too much. So for us, it’s mostly been a month where our English friends (finally) come up to Scotland and we get to see their cool art and hang out! 

The 900 Club runs at The Edinburgh Fringe until 24th Aug 2019, (V203) 18:15, Book Now.

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Q&A Plaster Cast Theatre

Plaster Cast Theatre are currently at the Ed Fringe with their show, Sound Cistem, which they describe as an ‘exuberant verbatim show about the cisgender gaze on the transgender body’. We ran a Q&A with them to find out more.

AT: Tell us a little about you and a company and how you came to do what you do…
PC: We are Plaster Cast Theatre, a collective of young creatives based in Manchester. We are passionate about making politically engaging theatre, and aim to represent a diverse range of perspectives.
AT: Tell us about your show, what is it about…
PC: Our show is Sound Cistem, a joyous verbatim show about the cisgender gaze on the transgender body. Featuring recorded interviews with trans and non-binary people, a self-love manifesto is made through a riotous, glittering disco. This duo keep moving to reject conformity and shame, despite the current ‘transgender debate’. Through groundbreaking physical theatre, Sound Cistem asks you to see the beauty in these bodies, and your own too.
AT: What inspired it?
Sound Cistem is inspired by the experiences of Lizzie and Ayden, the two performers, and the experiences of other trans/non-binary people they interviewed.
AT: What do you hope people will take away from watching?
PC: We hope that trans and queer audiences will find recognition and solidarity in Sound Cistem, and cisgender audiences will find it educational and humanising, enabling them to empathise with an experience they might not necessarily relate to. We think everyone, regardless of their gender identity and sexuality, can enjoy the queer dance party and original, innovative soundtrack!
AT: Describe the show in 6 words…
PC: Queer, celebratory, verbatim, humanising, radical, fun!
AT: What is your experience of the fringe so far?
PC: We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive experience at the Fringe so far- the love audiences of all descriptions have shown for Sound Cistem has been incredible. We are so excited to continue sharing this brilliant, fun and important show. 
Sound Cistem runs at The Edinburgh Fringe until 26th Aug at Zoo Fringe (V186) at 21:20. Book now.

Q & A: Cerys Bradley

Cerys Bradley and Rachel Wheeley are currently at the Ed Fringe performing The Unfortunate Bisexual. We caught up with Cerys to find out more about this show and how the Fringe has been so far…

Amie: Tell us a little about you and an artist and how you came to do what you do…

Cerys: I’m a researcher by day – I’ve just finished my PhD and now I’m working with an LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity on a research project about transphobia. I’ve been writing and performing stand up comedy, on and off, for about ten years mostly as a creative outlet. More recently, my comedy has taken on science themes, so I write parody science lectures or draw silly graphs for punchlines, that sort of thing. Rach used to work in radio and now runs the podcast Level Up Human. She was shortlisted for the BBC New Comedy Award in 2018 and performs stand up comedy about her life and what it was like to grow up at Eton College as a girl.

Amie: Tell us about your show, what is it about…

Cerys: The Unfortunate Bisexual is about bisexuality. It’s a stand up comedy show in two halves – Rachel does 25 minutes then I do 25 minutes. We both talk about our lives, coming out, and that times that we have struggled to call ourselves bisexual but also the reasons why we like being bisexual.

Amie: What inspired it?

Cerys:  I run a podcast, called the Coming Out Tapes, and interviewed Rachel on it. The show was conceived in the outtakes when we were chatting about Section 28 and how we have both, at times, been reluctant to call ourselves bisexual. We found that we had a lot of common experiences but also very different ways of being bisexual/expressing our bisexuality and we thought it would be fun to do a show together that showed that.

Amie: What do you hope people will take away from watching?

Cerys: Well, hopefully, everyone will take away the feeling that it was a funny show that they want to recommend to all their friends. Hopefully, the bisexuals in the audience will like the show and think that it’s nice to see comedy about things they can maybe relate to. We both have some material about misconceptions of bisexuality and how to push back against them so it would be nice to think that some audience members feel empowered by that. For our non bisexual audience members, maybe some will find it educational (as well as funny) – we would love it people who don’t know much walk away being a bit more aware that bisexuality exists is more than the stereotypes imply.

Amie: Describe the show in 6 words…

Cerys: Bisexuality explored in jokes, puns and graphs

Amie: What is your experience of the fringe so far?

Cerys: The fringe so far has been pretty intense. Thankfully, we’ve had each other so we can flyer together, celebrate when the show goes well and strategies when it doesn’t. Most importantly, we’ve seen a lot of amazing and brilliant theatre and comedy at the fringe so it’s been really nice to share that. We’ve both improved a lot from performing every day and also giving each other notes about our performances so, as a learning experience, this fringe has been great.

You have a couple of days left to catch this brilliant show at The Edinburgh Fringe, it runs until the 24th Aug 2019, PBH’s Free Fringe at The Street (V239) 21:00.  Book Now. 

Images © Ian Bowkett

Interview: Teddy Lamb

This year we are championing Since U Been Gone by Teddy Lamb, currently up at The Edinburgh Fringe.   We were incredibly fortunate to grab Teddy a week in to the Fringe, and got to find out more about their latest piece, which encompasses their queer identity, but also their experiences of grief and loss. There are a number of incredible trans artists and theatre-makers up at the Fringe this year, most touch on their trans identities in their work, but also explore life and love and grief and joy and our shared experiences of being human; as is true of all of the LGBT+ community we are so much more than just our queerness.  All of this work feels incredibly important at the moment with the anti-trans rhetoric being peddled by the media and certain groups – some of those within the LGBT+ community. So if you are at the Fringe, do try to catch Teddy’s show –  Since U Been Gone received four stars from The Guardian this week, and comes to the Camden People’s Theatre this November, following its run at the Fringe. You can catch it at the Assembly Roxy until 24th August. 

Interview by Amie Taylor

CW: Death and grief

AT: Tell us a bit about your background as an artist…

TL: I am Teddy Lamb. I am a queer theatre maker and playwright, I’ve been making work for the past few years as part of performance duo Holly&Ted and we’ve been making fantastical fairytales with feminist ideals behind them. I’ve loved doing that and Holly and I are still working together, but I wanted to create something that embraced my queerness as well and had more of a queer structure to it and more queer content and something autobiographical as well. So my new show is the culmination of that.  I’ve been writing it for quite a long time now. 

AT: What inspired Since U Been Gone and why was now the right time to make it?

TL: This show is about two of my best friends who died, and it’s a tribute to them and everything I learnt from them. At the moment we’re going through a very weird place in that we’ve made so many steps forward for queer people and queer culture, but it feels like we’re taking so many steps back within trans rights and the media becoming a much darker place and there being so much hatred being spewed on a daily basis by people who really should know better. I feel that one of the ways around that is to humanise trans people, to show that we are not ‘normal’ people, because ‘normal’ implies heteronormative, and that’s not the case always (sometimes it is), but to show that we all have similar experiences, we all experience grief at some point in our lives – these unifying things that we can use to pinpoint some humanity. And in the show I do talk about my experiences of gender, but also my experiences of growing up and listening to shit pop music and losing my best friends – I think everyone has lost someone, so it’s something everyone can identify with, and humanises the trans experience.

AT: How has it been for your grief process making this piece?

TL: It’s a weird one, because one of the friends has been gone for 9 years now, so that is not as fresh. And Jordan who is the main person in the play, it’s been just over three years now. And I’ve been writing the show for just under three years. So the process of writing the show is how I dealt with my grief, I channeled it in to something productive.  She was a writer, which is why I started writing things down. She wanted to write novels and was always drafting new manuscripts of chick-lit books and vampire novels and things like that. It’s really helped.  Performing the show the first few times was weird, because I hadn’t realised the dark place it could have put me in, but I’ve been working through it with my producers and director, and we’re putting a lot of structures and distancing in place within the performance, so I can perform it safely and take the audience on a journey, without going on that journey myself. Which is useful for my mental health. 

AT: This is really good to hear. There are a lot of artists up at the Fringe that bring work that is deeply personal, would you have any advice for other artists making autobiographical work, in terms of looking after their mental health? Especially when doing so for a month.

TL: The thing that’s been key for me is being honest with my team.  Which I wasn’t for the first few days.  I felt like I had to be strong for them, I felt like they were putting their faith and trust in me, so I had to be this strong person all the time. But if I’m doing that then they can’t help me – if I’m not asking for the help. So over the last few days we have sat down and chatted more, and they said they could see that I wasn’t doing well, but that they couldn’t help me if I kept saying I was doing okay. They’ve been amazing.  I would say surround yourself with good people and do things that aren’t Fringe. Having those escape moments is very useful. 

AT: Talking of people and support, Queerhouse are producing your show –

TL: Yes Queerhouse and Hightide.

AT: Great. What’s it like working with Queerhouse?

TL: It’s wonderful, they are so great. They understand everything. I’m in rep with Mika [Johnson] so we get every other day off, which allows us to get some distance from the show and to process things. They also understand how hard it is flyering for these shows, so they’re out there flyering with us and for us as well as doing all of the admin work, as well as continuing to run the Queerhouse agency, they’re working incredibly hard. I wouldn’t be here without them. Or Soho Theatre Writer’s Lab, or LGBTQ Arts – without all of you this show would not have happened. 

AT: But it has and it’s here, and down to all of your hard work too, which has been brilliant to follow over the past couple of years. So this isn’t your first Fringe –

TL: No, but it does feel a bit like my first Fringe. It’s my first solo show here which brings a whole range of new challenges. It’s my first autobiographical piece and sharing that story without sharing the burden with someone feels very different to the other times I’ve been here. I’m so much more tired than I ever have been at the Fringe. This whole month is a learning curve. 

AT: And are you holding Queer Meet-Up again this year, as a support for Queer Artists?

TL: Yes, we are. They’re every Tuesday from 1-3 in the Assembly Club Bar, it’s a space for queer people at the Fringe, whether they’re artists, audience, techies, critics or anything, to come and network and support each other and lean on each other and swap flyers, swap war stories and establish a bit of a community. 

Since U Been Gone is on at the Assembly Roxy – Downstairs (V139) until 24th Aug at 15:45

Book Now

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Image © Bronwen Sharp

Q & A with Katie Paterson

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to take a show to the Ed Fringe, you can read one of our many Q & As with artists currently working up there. Today we have one with Katie Paterson, whose show Minor Disruptions explores the ‘queerness of childhood’ and is showing until the 25th Aug.

AT: Tell us a little about you and an artist and how you came to do what you do…

KP: I studied Drama and Theatre Arts at Birmingham Uni, then trained as an actor at Mountview on the MA, where I started developing Minor Disruptions. I started out thinking I wanted to be a very classical actor-director and have slowly got weirder and weirder in my practice. I’m now some kind of stand up/spoken word/singer/writer hybrid and I’m finding it much more exciting. I didn’t want to make theatre that ignored the audience, so I make them essential to the work.

AT: Tell us about your show, what is it about…

KP: It’s about the queerness of childhood – the way that time stretches oddly, the rules that are enforced but not explained, the confusion and chaos as well as the joy. It’s almost a sketch show of memories, turned into games with the audience. 

AT: What inspired it?

KP: My irritation with people describing childhood as the happiest time of their lives (see also any variation of children are just innocent and carefree, they don’t think about sex, they don’t have any worries, etc) and I thought well, maybe knowing that my sexuality was not the norm was part of what made childhood so stressful, but it was definitely more than that. So I’m trying to put some ‘normal’ experiences on stage in a way that exposes their queerness. 

AT: What do you hope people will take away from watching?

KP: That children are complicated people, not tiny happiness bots, and that the painful parts of life are right next to the hilarious ones.

AT: Describe the show in 6 words…

KP: Funny, chaotic, spontaneous, warm, honest, surprising

AT: What is your experience of the fringe so far?

KP: I’m really loving it. People are so receptive and down for an unusual experience, and the whole atmosphere is a bit special. That’s not to say it isn’t hard, flyering solo and seeing small audience numbers, but I’m so thrilled to be sharing the show and watching so much brilliant work, as well as reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, it’s hard to complain. For every time I’ve had to ring my mum there’s been a dozen brilliant new experiences. Also my tiny team are just brilliant, (Chaz Webb and Karolina Federowicz) and I’m sharing a flat with my best mates so yeah, having a great time! 

Minor Disruptions runs at venue 152 (Paradise in the Augustines) until 25th Aug at 18:45 each day. Book now.

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